Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights
Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The position is honorary and the expert is not a staff of the United Nations nor paid for his/her work. He/she expresses his/her view in an independent capacity and does not represent his/her Government.
Since 1979, special mechanisms have been created by the Commission on Human Rights, the UN human rights body, to examine specific country situations or themes from a human rights perspective. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, replaced by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, has mandated experts to study particular human rights issues. This system of experts is better known as the Special Procedures system.
For more information on the Special Rapporteurs, please refer to : Fact Sheet N° 27: Seventeen Frequently Asked Questions about United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur
Background note : In the 1970s, increased generation of hazardous wastes and growing public awareness of its effects resulted in the introduction in many industrialized countries of extensive legislation regulating the treatment of wastes. Disparities in domestic legal standards and the costs of disposing of toxic wastes provoked multiple movements of wastes across frontiers. Essentially, it was only after 1986 that the North-South trend emerged. While the local capacity for hazardous waste storage and elimination in developed countries is steadily declining, the volume of waste produced continues to rise and we see new trends such as electronic wastes or “e-waste” emerging. (For further information please refer to document E/CN.4/1996/17 )
The illicit traffic and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes pose a serious threat not only to the environment, but also to the enjoyment of internationally-protected human rights – the right to life, the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the rights to clean water, food, adequate housing and safe and healthy working conditions, the right to information, the right to participation and freedom of association, and other human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur has three components:
- The first consists in outlining the elements of the problem and conducting a general survey of issues involving the human rights of the victims, with special emphasis on difficulties encountered by African and other developing countries.
- The second component consists in identifying, investigating and monitoring actual situations, specific incidents and individual cases, including allegations forwarded to the Special Rapporteur.
- The third consists in producing annually a list of countries and transnational corporations engaged in the illicit traffic of toxic and dangerous products and wastes to developing countries.
The obligations of States
States are responsible for the fulfillment of their international obligations concerning the protection of, inter alia, the right to health, food, adequate housing, information, freedom of association and protection and preservation of the environment, and are liable in accordance with international law. States must guarantee that the rights be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
States Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (170 States) have to take appropriate measures to ensure that the generation of hazardous wastes is reduced to a minimum and that adequate disposal facilities for the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes are available. States must also ensure that the persons involved in the management of hazardous wastes take such steps as are necessary to prevent pollution due to hazardous wastes and other wastes arising from such management and, if such pollution occurs, to minimize the consequences thereof for human health and the environment. States must further reduce the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes to a minimum consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such wastes.
Implementation of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights was originally established by the Commission on Human Rights in March 1995 by resolution 1995/81. For more information on the history of the mandate, please refer to the following link: Overview of the mandate.
The Special Rapporteur implements the mandate through different means and activities. As assigned by the different resolutions related to the mandate:
- The Special Rapporteur presents annual reports to the Human Rights Council on the activities and studies undertaken in the view of the implementation of the mandate (See Annual Reports);
- He/She monitors the adverse effects on human rights of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes throughout the world. He/she identifies general trends related to such phenomena and undertakes country visits which provide the Special Rapporteur with a firsthand account on the situation relevant to his/her mandate in a specific country (See Country visits);
- He/She communicates with States and other concerned parties with regard to alleged cases of illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes (See Individual complaints) and other issues related to his/her mandate;
- He/She promotes a human rights-based approach to toxic waste management through dialogue with relevant actors by participating in seminars, conferences, expert meetings.
Special Rapporteur :
Mr. Calin Georgescu (Romania), since 2010
Mr. Okechukwu Ibeanu (Nigeria), 2004-2010
Ms. Fatma Zohra Ouhachi-Vesely (Algeria), 1995-2004